Our new baby is now three weeks old and I feel the need to write a post about waiting to cut the cord, which was one of the things that my husband and I decided to do differently this time around. I had read enough about the benefits of waiting to want to give our baby that advantage, and now I am learning even more. Here is an excerpt from my account of our baby's birth, detailing other unexpected benefits we experienced:
"We wanted to let the baby's cord stop pulsing before it was cut, and [our doctor] was happy to comply, so for the first time I got to hold my baby without any kind of intervention in between, with only a blanket between me and his bloody, vernix-coated body. He seemed to share my exhaustion and utter relief that it was over. When the doctor first held him up, his whole body was purple; I don't remember the girls being quite that color. But it didn't take long for him to start looking more pink, and we admired all his little parts. I was surprised at how long it took the blood in the cord to drain back into him. But it was so nice to have all that time with him just to myself... I kept wondering when I would have pains to deliver the placenta, but that didn't happen until [my husband] cut the cord [about 20 minutes later]... Things have always happened so quickly after delivery that I've never gotten the chance to see the cord or the placenta, so this time I asked if I could see them. [The doctor] was happy to oblige and gave us...Placenta Basics 101, which was very interesting. It really seemed that taking that time to let the cord stop pulsing slowed everything down and made the post-birth experience gentler and more peaceful. We definitely want to repeat that!"
So, what are some of the benefits to waiting, from a medical standpoint? This site calls cord blood "liquid gold" and says that even waiting 30 seconds to cut the cord is beneficial to baby because "this blood contains a high number of red blood cells; it is iron rich and contains maternal antibodies... Higher red blood cell flow to vital organs in the first week was noted, and term infants had less anemia at 2 months and increased duration of early breastfeeding."
A lot of people nowadays are having the cord blood saved for possible future needs, but as the above site points out, the blood belongs to baby, so why not give it back to him?
Another site contains an article written by a midwife, who states that, "Scientific methods are now able to prove that our standard immediate cord clamping protocol is an intervention that needlessly deprives a baby of a substantial percentage of his or her own blood supply and is one of the most major and potentially lethal inventions possible from the perspective of the baby's wellbeing." This site also contains numerous other articles on this and related topics that are quite interesting.
Another benefit (and one I didn't know beforehand) is that "delayed cord clamping ensures that a baby receives important clotting factors" (see this site, which includes pictures). I find this ironic, since babies born in hospitals in the United States are routinely given a shot of vitamin K, which provides artificial clotting factors (and which we declined this time)--after their cords have been clamped quickly. ???
So if you're expecting or are planning/hoping to have another child (or your first), this is a topic you may want to look into in more detail so as to make the most informed decision you can. It's such an easy thing to do for your baby to get him started healthily on the outside of you, and it can also sweeten the bonding experience, as I detailed above.